Photos are a powerful thing, and research suggests that visuals are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than words. Which means that before a sentence is read, your audience is likely to look at the image you’ve chosen and make an assumption about whether they are interested in engaging with your content.
A presentation or Facebook post immediately has a greater impact when it has a photo. And, when you think about it, it’s one of the easiest additions you can make.
Whether you’re a part of a large corporation, or a buzzing start-up, it’s likely that at some point, you’ve spent too long scrolling through Google Images, only to choose a styleless, low-resolution image that doesn’t look quite right.
Since spending hundreds of dollars (and hours) on an image is unsustainable, luckily there are plenty of free, stock websites that provide high-quality images (that aren’t cheesy).
But before we list some of our favorite websites, let’s take a look at some basic usage principles that stock photo sites use.
Royalty Free: You can use these images without needing to pay any royalty or licensing fees.
Attribution: You must credit the work in order to use the image.
Membership options: You are required to sign-up to the site in order to use the royalty-free images. Some sights are free and others require a membership fee.
Commercial Use: You are allowed to use royalty-free images for business ventures of any kind.
Below are some of our favorite royalty-free stock sites that you can try.
Aside from thousands of high-quality, premium images, one key benefit of the Canva Image Library is that you can stay within the editor while choosing your image. Easily switch between images and colors without needing to toggle between various tabs.
As a design platform, Canva’s image library specializes in providing thousands of background images and textures that can easily hold text and other design elements on top of them.
Usage rules: Here’s an explanation of our license agreements on free elements.
Carefully curated from a variety of sources, once you enter a keyword into Pexels you will only be shown a high-quality range of images—and won’t need to endlessly scroll to find what you are looking for. The website also incentivizes photographers to upload images with competitions and prizes, meaning that you’ll always have access to fresh, and new images.
Pexels has a dynamic range of close-up, cropped images. Whether it’s food, nature, or an office environment, the interesting angles in these images will captivate your audience, and give you a point of difference.
Unsplash serves up 10 new "do whatever you want" photos every 10 days which—unlike some stock websites—means that it’s constantly refreshed with dynamic images. There is also a handy Explore section which segments images into niche categories like Wallpaper Images and Weather Images.
If you’re looking for a wide range of nature and architecture images from around the world, Unsplash is for you.
When you’re looking for Instagram-worthy snaps, StockSnap provides the goods. StockSnap is designed to help you find the perfect image with ease. It does this by adding hundreds of new images every week, revealing popular searches for the week, and also providing a list of trending images.
StockSnap is great for all your corporate needs. Most of their images are set in office environments. StockSnap also has a great curation of desk flatlays.
Negative Space provides some of the coolest images on the web. From travel to technology, with a diverse range of people depicted. The platform also has segmented images based on hues, so you can easily find images that work within your design’s color palette.
If you’re looking for images of people in their natural surroundings, Negative Space has an impressive collection of people performing everyday tasks.
Kaboompics was founded by Karolina Grabowska, a web designer from Poland. While this photo library is a lot smaller than most, it’s clear that each photo has been chosen with a photographic eye. With some of the best flatlay images we’ve seen, Kaboompics provides bright and lively images that are perfect as a visual aid to any design.
Kaboompics specializes in lifestyle and scenery shots. No need to worry about taking your own Instagram images any longer, these images are perfect for any visual platform.
Usage rules: Creative Commons with the one exception—the rules of redistribution. In every other case, you are free to use their photos however you like.
Life of Pix is the creative destination where cool photographers share all their images. One scroll through the website instantly has you longing for a roadtrip—camera in hand. Life of Pix also serves as a digital mood board, allowing users to create their own portfolio, and follow their favorite photographers.
If you want to take your image search one step further, Life of Pix also has a sister website, Life of Vids. Here, you have access to free footage, short clips, and video loops. All can be easily downloaded if you have a Vimeo account.
Usage rules: All images are donated to the public domain, with no copyright restrictions except for mass distribution.
Barnimages was launched in March 2015 by Igor Trepeshchenok and Roman Drits, two photographers from Latvia. With their photographic eye, Barnimages is quickly becoming one of the most highly-curated stock photography hubs around.
Unlike other sites, all the images come from Igor, Roman or their friends and colleagues.
Usage rules: Images are allowed to be used for commercial and non-commercial purposes. Credit for each image is greatly appreciated.